Alcohol has long been a boon to human civilization. The cleaning properties of alcohol are powerful, helping humans to keep disinfect surfaces, skin, and most importantly, water.
During most of human civilization water was something to be suspicious of. There were very few sources of pure, untainted, clean water for humans to drink. Many sources of water could kill a person by exposing them to a tremendous amount of bacteria or spreading diseases. After embracing alcohol, humans were able to get the required hydration with the added benefit of calories and nutrition.
In ancient times citizens would be given rations of a beer-like drink made from fermented grains so they could be healthy and fit enough to work. Priests were given even larger rations of this life giving liquid, allowing them to focus on giving order, structure, and reason to ancient life. Wine has been consumed in many cultures as a daily staple, obligatory at any table, often regardless of time of day or food. The French, during German occupation during the second World War, had their rations cut, but pronounced that if they must be given less food, they must certainly be given more wine. They believed, deep in their culture, their minds, and their hearts that wine is the most nutritious of all substances. They demanded that patients in hospitals be given more wine to help them heal and ease their pain.
How is it that we have long relied on alcohol, that it has been an important tool in our survival, and yet alcohol is one of the most dangerous, addictive, and destructive substances in our modern society? Alcohol related deaths rank third leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and accounts for 6% of all deaths in the world.
The consumption of alcohol has a long list of negative side effects, including liver disease, nerve damage, ulcers, cancer, and brain damage.
How can we make sense of this world where alcohol helped human civilization advance to this place, yet is killing million of people each year?
Alcohol itself is not what kills people; it is the way in which it is consumed that makes it healthy or dangerous.
So how do we learn to drink alcohol in a way that adds to our health instead of draining it from us?
We must shift our attitude toward drinking. We must understand why we drink. We must put ourselves first, prioritizing our health over the pleasure of the alcohol intoxication.
Here are a few ideas:
• Belief matters: The French culture teaches that wine is a nourishing substance, and many daily habits reinforce this idea. People believe that it is healthy, and their bodies will make it so.
• Education matters: we must know the positive and negative effects of alcohol. Knowledge is power, and it will help us to make healthy decisions in the short and long term.
• Set boundaries: know how much you will drink before you begin. Alcohol impairs our ability to control our consumption as its effects on our mind and body increase.
• Pay attention: take your time and truly enjoy what you are drinking. Mindfulness helps us to get in touch with our senses, creating more pleasure and enjoyment out of less alcohol.
• Get curious: ask where your drink came from. Get to know about the process. Ask how it was made. Learn the story behind it. That drink may have traveled across the globe to get to your glass, and asking how and why it got there can drastically increase your satisfaction in it.
• Share: most things in life are better enjoyed with others. Do you have a nice bottle of wine? Share it with others and take joy in their appreciation of it. That can be at times more satisfying than the wine itself!
• Measure: Know how much you’re drinking, and how much is too much for you.
• Take breaks: take regular breaks from consumption, whether that be dry days, weeks, or months, allowing your body to find its natural state.